The US/Russia Summit

This morning, as I am having my coffee, and after my reading and prayer time, I have been reflecting on the meeting between two of the most powerful leaders in the country. I wanted to take a couple of minutes and record those thoughts here as well as reflect on the more recent things that have occurred which have damaged US/Russian relations.
  • No, it is not ok that another nation (Russia) interfered in our elections. It’s also not ok that we interfere in other nation’s elections. If we want to get all indignant about it claiming the moral high ground, that starts by example. If we are the leaders of the free world as we like to claim, that leadership starts by example, and in international elections, we have not given a good example. (source)
  • The reality is that there were warnings that a foreign government, specifically Russia, would try to interfere in a US election as early as 2014, but the common perception that nothing was done is not quite so true. Russia was warned by US intelligence officials speaking to their counterparts in Russia not to do this. This is a common way to relay messages in international politics. Former POTUS Obama personally warned Putin not to do this, via the “red phone” that is normally used for nuclear matters, but had previously been agreed could be used for cyber matters as well. This is a very rarely used method of contact. Those warnings did not work. You can say that enough was not done, and I am one of the voices that says this,  but you can not say honestly say that it was ignored. (source)
  • After it became known that Russia was attempting to influence the election, former SCOTUS Obama expelled 35 diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in the US. I am among the voices that say the response was not significant enough both from the US, and from our allies, but there was a response and saying otherwise is not honest. Contrary to the rumors, POTUS Trump did not ease sanctions on Russia, but yes, the sanctions were slightly adjusted in a way that is generally seen as routine so as to not harm American companies. In any other time, it would not even be a news story. Democratic leaders such as Pelosi, were wrong in their assertions. (source)
  • No matter what happens at this summit, there is  sizable group that will not be happy. The Trump tweet, while bombastic as usual, is likely correct regarding this group. He’s correct when asserting that Putin could give up Moscow in reparations for past misdeeds, and many would complain that Trump did not get Saint Petersburg too. There is a large group of people who will not allow Trump to be correct about anything or to have a good idea, even if they supported it previously. That is not loyal opposition, which is vital to this nation, it is just opposition for the sake of gaining power which is how we will fall. It’s most recently seen in the opposition to whomever Trump nominated to the SCOTUS before they were nominated. They hype and partisanship is astounding at this point, and frankly it is dangerous.
  • Until now, I have defended the Muller Probe. I don’t generally like special prosecutors and think it could have been handled a different way, but this is how it was chosen to be handled, so be it. It is vitally important to know what happened in the tampering by Russia so that it can be prevented in the future. It was also important to know if there was collusion, which I feel the need to point out that there is no evidence of such. I no longer support this inquiry because I was not born yesterday. Suddenly, just a day or two before Trump and Putin are to meet, there are conveniently new indictments of Russian hackers.  It is difficult to see this as anything other than an attempt to influence the meeting. There is no reason that the indictments could not wait. Furthermore, there are then the calls by Democrats, and apparently some Republicans,  to now demand extradition of the hackers from Russia. (source) Let’s start with the obvious. Putin is not going to do this. That is just the reality of the situation. Let’s move to another reality, we have no extradition agreement with Russia. Let’s move to the legal, even if they wanted to, Russia could not extradite them due to constitutional restrictions. “Article 61 1. A citizen of the Russian Federation may not be deported from Russia or extradited to another State.” (source) I am not naive. I understand that Putin likely doesn’t care about the constitution. I do however. I would not want our nation to violate our own constitution, so because of that, I can not reasonably expect another nation to violate theirs. Neither should anyone else.  The Democrats demand the impossible and will then blame Trump for not delivering it. That is not good and healthy for the nation. That is not loyal opposition. That is the very type of power play that they frequently deride Trump for. Frankly, there are more important things to worry about anyway. The probe needs to come to an end. We know what was done, we know who did it, and we know that it was not a matter of collusion by Trump, which was the initial claim. Stop spending more and more money on the thing since it’s original purpose is now unfounded and the meddling unmasked.
  • Despite the claims of some, the two most powerful leaders of the world, who collectively control 90% of the world’s nuclear stockpile, sitting down and talking is a good thing. If you are talking, you are not shooting. I imagine that the START II treaty will be discussed and enforced, perhaps even expanded, or at least the framework for an expansion. Less nuclear weapons seems far more important to me than a few hackers that we can not reasonably expect to prosecute anyway.

If all that comes of this summit is that two powerful leaders have a good chat and start to repair damaged relations, then it was a success. Russia is not our friend, again, I am not naive, but we can work with them in some areas. It’s not a bad thing for 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons to be able to have a civil chat. I am so passed the Russia Trump crap. There is not evidence, so at this point, it’s just slander. I am not a Trump supporter, though some policy decisions he has made I do like. I find myself defending him more and more however not because I particularly like his style or all of his policies, but because there is such an irrational opposition and unwillingness to work with him, that it is terrifying. There are those who are hoping that the Russia meeting will fail just so that Trump will look bad. Actively hoping that the leader of your nation fails? Really? Be opposed to Trump all day, but be loyal opposition, and give credit where it is due, otherwise, we have already lost The Republic.  In truth, I fear that we have.

Holy Roar is not a great book part 4

Here are parts 1, 2, and 3.

My daughter had a friend over last night. I grilled. My wife made sides. We made a fire in the fire-pit outside for the girls to roast marshmallows and make smores. Then a late-night movie. It was a fun night. We eat every day, but I don’t always grill. The kids ask for treats all the time, but I don’t always start a fire for smores. When we have a guest, we do a little extra. Like many folks, we celebrate a little more when we do it with more people. We are thankful for the money to be able to get extra sweets. We are thankful for the friends in our lives. We are thankful for the time together. So, we make a fire that we normally wouldn’t and set marshmallows to flame. This is how we show thankfulness and celebration with friends at my house. One might call such behavior with fire for celebration a ritual.


The fourth chapter in Holy Roar is about the BH word תודה /todah/. Following Strong’s, the authors have transliterated this as /towdah/, but I’m not going to do that because representing a holem-vav (a vowel “o”) with a “w” at all is funny to me (check out the ancientbiblepodcast if you want to know why). However, like with every other letter of BH in this book, the authors have printed in Hebrew the word /hadot/ (which is not a word in BH).


The authors cite Strong’s Concordance for their definition of this word. They say (on p56) that /todah/ means “An extension of the hand. Thanksgiving. A confession. A sacrifice of praise. Thanksgiving for things not yet received. A choir of worshippers.”


However, one of these things does not come from Strong’s. The phrase “thanksgiving for things not yet received” does not come from Strong’s Concordance. You don’t have to trust me. The authors tell you this themselves in the Notes. On p124, the authors give the full entry from Strong’s for /todah/. The phrase “thanksgiving for things not yet received” is not in there. And yet, on p56, the authors have added in this phrase to the definition of /todah/ as if it came from Strong’s. This is very unethical and dishonest. This phrase does not come from Strong’s. This phrase is one of Whitehead’s pastoral interpretations and it seems he has added that to the definitions from Strong’s. This misleads people into thinking that this phrase comes from Strong’s when really it is Whitehead’s own thoughts. Not only have the authors mishandled information from Strong’s, now they are creating their own information and calling it “Strong’s”. This is shameful.


/Todah/ does not mean an “extension of the hands” despite what Strong’s says. /Todah/ is a noun that is derived from the verb /yadah/ which we covered in the first post of this series. Because of this etymological connection and /yadah/’s multiple usages (some of which have to do with shooting [an arrow] or throwing [an object]), some resources like Strong’s make a connection through etymology where there is none in real usage. More reliable lexica like HALOT, DCH, or Gesenius 18 do not claim that /todah/ has anything to do with hand movement or posture.


Hebrew nerds: /yadah/ is a I-position yod/vav verb. This means that the I-position yod used to be a vav in older Hebrew. Thus, the original root for /yadah/ and /todah/ was not even /ydh/ at all, rather, the root was /vdh/ and that old I-vav shows itself in the derived noun form of /todah/. So, if you wanna get crazy with etymology, start at least with the right etymology.


The authors then use two examples from Psalms that allegedly show the connection between being thankful and raising your hands to show your thankfulness. This two-part connection is the /todah/ kind of praise, according to the authors. To support this point, the authors use the NKJV in both instances. This is likely to avoid having to explain what a /todah/ sacrifice is since the NKJV ignores the sacrificial context for modern readers.


Psa 50:23

NET:  Whoever presents a thank-offering honors me.

To whoever obeys my commands, I will reveal my power to deliver.

NKJV: Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;

And to him who orders his conduct aright

I will show the salvation of God.


What the KJV has translated simply as “offers praise” the NET Bible has more specifically translated “presents a thank-offering”. In BH, this is /zo-be-ach todah/. /Zo-be-ach/ is a substantive participle. That means it’s a verb that gets used as a noun. Kind of like how we put -er on verbs to make them nouns in English (run/runner, for example). So, the verb /zabach/ means “to sacrifice” or “to offer a sacrifice” and making it into a participle turns it into “the sacrificer” or “the one who sacrifices/offers a sacrifice”. This phrase with /todah/ specifies the kind of sacrifice that the sacrificer will offer: a /todah/ sacrifice.


This does not mean “a sacrifice of praise” in the way modern people take it. For many, a sacrifice of praise means to sing songs and (incorrectly blamed on the Bible) to lift up your hands while you sing to show your sincerity. Rather, this means to kill an animal as a way to show that you are thankful for what God has done. This is a sacrificial ritual that is set out formally in Leviticus 7:11-15 (for starters). In the larger context of sacrifices in Leviticus, we learn that /todah/ sacrifices are a type of /shelamiym/ sacrifices. Most translate this as a “peace offering” or “offering of well-being”. These are unlike burned sacrifices or sin offerings. Those other sacrifices are obligatory, but the kinds of peace offerings, like the /todah/ sacrifice, are voluntary.


The /todah/ offering is the sacrifice of the party. If you had enough resources to have a party, Leviticus tells you how to party right. Not everyone can afford to throw a party. The /todah/ sacrifice reminds us of this and prepares us for the party in the right way. The right way to party is with a thankful attitude for the ability to party. So, if someone had an animal for slaughter and wanted to cook that animal for family and friends, simply because it’s fun to feed your family and friends when you have the means, Leviticus 7 instructs that person to sacrifice that animal in a special way that thanks God for providing the abundant food. To reduce this to some kind of rule for praise and worship time is not only incorrect and completely misses the idea of being voluntary, it cheapens the idea of celebration in the Bible.


Psa 56:11-12 is likewise translated “praise” in an obscure manner than veils the sacrificial language for most English readers. While this is indeed a use of /todah/, it does not mean to lift your hands while singing. It means to kill an animal as a way to say thanks to God for what he has provided.


We made a fire and cooked special food last night at my house because that is a way to celebrate the abundance that God has provided. We didn’t used to have a house, much less friends in the area and extra ribs and smores to share. Now we do, so we celebrate. And as I started the fire last night, I thought about how unnecessary it was. I could save that wood for next winter. The kids don’t need more sugar. It’s not cold outside, so there’s no reason for a fire. Plus, there’s a fire in the BBQ pit, so why make another in the fire-pit in the backyard? Because we can and we were celebrating that we can. We are thankful for what God has provided and we celebrated it.


This also runs counter to what the authors teach that /todah/ means. One has to create the notion and add it to Strong’s that /todah/ means to be thankful for something that hasn’t happened yet. Its true that this is the context in the life of David in Psa 56. But that does not mean that’s what the word /todah/ means. This is why Strong’s never claimed that and the authors had to add it.


Actually, as we see from Leviticus, the /todah/ offering is retrospective. It looks back at what God has already done and reminds us to be thankful for that. We might, like David, plan on a future party once something great we want to happen actually does happen. But even then, the /todah/ sacrifice is still looking backwards on a significant event and showing thankfulness for it. So, if you can, plan a /todah/ party. Have some friends and family over. Make a fire. Cook special food. Party well and be thankful for your ability to celebrate what God has done in your life.




Sarek’s failure at peace #StarTrekDiscovery

I’ve watched every episode of Star Trek: Discovery twice, except for the sixth. That’s only because it is Tuesday… I’ll watch it again later.

But, I wanted to just blab for a moment.

I love the series. It is stark and needful for our moment in time, as much as TOS was bright and hopeful for the 1960’s. I sort of imagine this as the Trek if Trek was written during the 1930’s.

Sarek has always been an enigmatic character. The vaunted ambassador who happened to have a half-human son in Starfleet. He is afforded many diplomatic victories in the Star Trek universe, including bringing to an end the Klingon-Federation cold war. Those of us who grew up with Star Trek know that without Sarek, the Federation would not exist. He was the ultimate peace-maker.

But, he also had his own issues with his half-human son. Was he really xenophobic? Was his personality representing the 1960’s era — and honestly, it still exists — of those with children from both color spectrums? I mean, we still hear the term miscegenation. Maybe. In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, there is something of a reconciliation. If we add the series Enterprise, then the reconciliation becomes something trans-specifies.

Sarek… maybe did not like the human race. That is about what we are left with. He did not trust them and did not like his half-Vulcan son, mixing with them, even though he devoted his life — his very life as we come to understand in TNG — to securing and growing a human-dominated Federation.

With the sixth episode, Lethe, we not only get the mention of both Spock and the USS Enterprise as well as a sudden and forceful injection of metaphysics into the Star Trek universe, but we get something of an understanding of the dysfunction between Sarek and Spock. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers…

But Sarek failed his human ward but showing an unVulcan emotional preference to his son. He failed to contain his emotions and it cost him two children. The therapist in me says it most likely caused a rift between Amanda and he as well. His forward thinking faith in Spock was then thrown aside when Spock chose human Starfleet.

Sarek, the great peacemaker, the one who brought peace treaty after peace treaty to the Federation (and in reality, birthed the Federation from the fumbling beginnings) because of his enduring devotion to Surak’s order, who sacrificed so much… failed miserable as a warden and a father, and possibly as a husband.

Discovery is filling in some holes in the Star Trek universe, but it is also making for some mesmerizing science fiction — and knowing that it is the darkest right before dawn… entices me.